If you are reading this, it means the world hasn't ended yet. Woe to the doomsday preppers and fake prophets who believe the world will end on December 21st. Doomsday prophecies are the worst kind of stories. They are based on fear and don't provide any lessons. I much prefer stories that don't leave me nervous about the future and can actually teach me something about life.
Earlier this week I went to see the new film version of The Hobbit. Whether you are reading them, seeing them in the form of a cheap cartoon, or watching in 3D, the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien set the gold standard for fantasy worlds. The Hobbit is often seen as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings. Yes, one story takes places earlier than the other, but I see these stories more as siblings than in succession. They are made of the same stuff, but are still as different as I am from my brother.
The main difference between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, both in book and movie form, teaches us a lesson. The Hobbit shows us a story can still be really cool without taking itself too seriously. Trolls are very scary, but that doesn't mean they can't have funny accents or interesting things to say. Fight scenes are exciting, but it won't ruin them to throw in some slapstick here and there. Wizards are powerful, but can still be as prone to indulge in whimsy as the rest of us are.
The story of The Hobbit provides another life lesson: Just because you think you know who you are doesn't mean everyone will believe you, or that you are right. Through the course of the story, Bilbo Baggins moves along a chain of identity. He starts as a reluctant host, turns into an eager companion, and then becomes a cowardly deserter before realizing he is really a capable adventurer. Each time he switches roles it is because of what someone else thinks of him, except for his last identity, which he chooses for himself at a pivotal moment. The Hobbit teaches us that we decide what we are, whether it is a homebody or a burglar or anything else in between. The actions we take communicate that definition to others, and are the only way to make others believe it.
Finally, The Hobbit has something to teach us about humility. No matter how strong, or smart, or brave you are you can still get into situations that are over your head. The Hobbit shows us that when things are looking really bad, there is always hope that something could still swoop down and save you. That is, if you have the wisdom to know when to ask for help. It doesn't have to be giant eagles, but that's always nice.
The lessons provided by The Hobbit could see me though the worst terrors of the doomsday prophecies. But I sure hope they won't ever have too. This was only the first part of a three-part movie. If the world ends today, I will never get to see the other two.